Do I see a pattern here?
Before: Savannah, LA
Where will they show up next?Read more
This is what happens if you leave it all to the spellchecker!
The quote appeared in a piece by Reuters about the decoding of the honeybee genome in 2006. Apparently, the autocorrect dutifully replaced all mentions of “the queen” with “Queen Elizabeth”, thus informing us about some yet unheard of capacities of the British monarch.Read more
I am still on the road for research and preparations and can’t write much.
But I don’t want to keep this one from you. This is where I had coffee today:
They are among us.Read more
While the honeybees were fine there was little interest in pollinators and pollination in general. People just took it for granted. But with the ongoing news about CCD and concerns about declining bee populations worldwide the interest in wild bees as natural pollinators and “backup” for honeybee pollination has risen sharply. It turned out, however, that very little was known about the changes in diversity and abundance of wild bees, despite their importance for natural and agricultural systems.
In North America, there had been fragmentary observations that populations of wild bees were declining, but the evidence for large scale range reductions has been lacking. Now a study has been published in PNAS that for the first time provides nationwide data for eight historically abundant species of bumble bees. And for some of them, the news is not good.
A team of researchers from the University of Illinois and Utah State University compared historical data of the past 100 years from museum collections with current data based on extensive surveys in the US between 2007 and 2009. They focused on eight target species – four expected to have relatively stable populations, and four where preliminary data suggested a decline. Overall, they had 73 759 specimens in the historical data set and collected 16 788 specimens at 382 sites for the current data set.
From this data, they were, for the first time, able to confirm the decline and to quantify its extent for four species: Bombus occidentalis, B. affinis, B. pensylvanicus, and B. terricola. All these species suffered a reduction in their geographic range as well as in their relative abundance. The species most massively affected is B. affinis, with an estimated reduction in range-area of 87% compared to historical data.
It is interesting to see that the declines in relative abundance appear only in the last 20 to 30 years, with, as the authors point out, “values from current surveys lower than in any decade of the last century”.
Concerning possible causes for the decline, they considered pathogens and genetic diversity in their study.
They consistently found higher infection levels of the microsporidium Nosema bombi and lower genetic diversity in the declining populations, which makes these factors realistic predictors for the trajectory of a population. But they also state that cause and effect remain still uncertain. From the findings in the current study, it is not yet possible to determine, for example, whether the increased prevalence of N. bombi is the result of higher susceptibility to the pathogen or if N. bombi is simply more common in declining species for other reasons. Factors like habitat fragmentation, the loss of floral and nesting resources, or climate change were not considered in this study.
Cameron, S., Lozier, J., Strange, J., Koch, J., Cordes, N., Solter, L., & Griswold, T. (2011). Patterns of widespread decline in North American bumble bees Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1014743108Read more
Just quickly: I am so delighted about this new piece of research about how bumble-bees perceive colour patterns, that I don’t want to miss the opportunity to share it.
The study has been conducted by 25 children from Blackawton Elementary School (!) and was published this week in the scientific journal Biology Letters from the UKâ€™s prestigious Royal Society. The graphics are drawn in crayon and the main findings include “We also discovered that science is cool and fun because you get to do stuff that no one has ever done before. “
For more on this, take a look over at Not Exactly Rocket Science, where Ed Yong has a beautiful post about the research and also a lot of background about how the entire project came about.
Canada and the US have about 50 species of native bumblebees. For five of them, a rapid decline has been observed since the 1990s. Three species â€” Bombus affinis, B. terricola, and B. occidentalis â€” will now be submitted to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species (cf NatureNews: Plight of the bumblebee) (via evolvimus).
Two main reasons for the decline are discussed. One is a fungal pathogen, Nosema bombi, that might have been introduced with commercially used bumblebees from Europe. The other might be climate change, which may cause a shift in flowering times and nectarflow that bumblebees are not adapted to.
Our special friend B. griseocollis still seems to do okay, though :)
Also this month, Anna Morkeski and Anne Averill of the University of Massachussetts published “Wild Bee Status and Evidence for Pathogen ‘Spillover’ with Honey Bees” in the American Bee Journal and in Bee Culture with a very good overview over the current research into bumblebee-decline.
(photo: A. Morkeski)
A honeybee has
2 antennae and
3 eyes are simple eyes on its forehead and
2 are compound eyes.
1 compound eye consists of
9000 ommatidia in worker bees and
19000 ommatidia in drones (allegedly so they can better spot a queen).
Not a honeybee, but the beautiful eyes of a carpenter bee (photo by Muhammad Mahdi Karim)
13Â°C is the temperature on the outside of the winter cluster.
35Â°C is the temperature in the brood nest.
0,1g is the weight of a worker bee.
7 000 000 sperms can be held in the queenâ€™s spermatheca.
25 km/h is as fast as a bee can fly (ground speed, I assume, but do not know)